Saturday 6 December 2008

Flame war at Lo Hwei Yen's Facebook online memorial

Imagine you're dead.

And you died in some sensational way that makes front page news. Not by taking illegal sex pills or getting mauled to death by white tigers on video. But by having the dubious distinction of being the first person from your country to be killed by terrorists.

It also helps if you're a cute 20something female lawyer with lots of pictures of yourself that the press can use when reporting your death to death.

So you become an overnight media celebrity, albeit posthumously.

People you have never met before when you were alive attend your wake, moved by your story in the papers. Gawkers. Maybe they'll get some 4D numbers too.

Would you feel exploited?

Consider this:

Three Facebook groups have been created in Lo Hwei Yen's memory, the biggest of which has over 10,000 members.

Ms Ho might have been a very popular woman, but who has 10,000 friends? Even on Facebook, she has only 313 as of yesterday.

One of the other Facebook groups has over 1,000 members and is called "Memorial for Lo Hwei Yen, the Singaporean killed in Mumbai terrorist attack".

Talk about attacks, there is a ferocious flame war going on in this group.

On the group's discussion board are the topics "Micah Lim and Aaron Yeo have no shame" and "Michelle Quah is slandering people here".

Who are these people?

Micah Lim is the group's creator. He and Aaron Yeo are listed as the group admins. Both of them seem to know Ms Lo only through press reports.

Michelle Quah claims to be a former colleague of Ms Lo's.

The "slandering" began when Ms Quah called Mr Lim and Mr Yeo "shameless" for putting links to their online businesses on the "memorial" page.

"How touching that your 'memorial' to Ms Lo Hwei Yen must include a sick attempt to publicise a business," she writes in a post and wants the links removed.

Mr Lim's defence is that Facebook also places advertising on the page and he is upset that Ms Quah didn't message him privately to ask him to remove the links. He called her a "pathetic lonely attention seeker".

Ms Lo's tragic death may have reminded us of the preciousness and frailty of human life - but apparently not of civil discourse.

Other posters agree with Ms Quah that the links are inappropriate. However, one of the links remains up as of the end of last week.

Is this exploitation?

At least, unlike Mas Selamat, no one is selling Lo Hwei Yen t-shirts at


- Published in The New Paper, 6 December 2008